I’m different from my peers who are married with kids. I don’t have their obligations or problems. Though my generation has more kids than Millennials – 66% for GenX versus 55% for Millenial (2019 numbers), my life as a single, childless GenXer is not uncommon. Father’s Day is a day that makes me realize my lack of a family of my own.
My typical day starts with a wake up alarm at any time I want. I can eat my shredded wheat at any time I want. I can have my coffee and read my news. Despite needing to get to work at the same time, I can run late. I can work out after or before work, whenever. At dinner, I can make a full meal or just microwave something. I can have friends over when I want and I can watch what I want on TV or the net. I can sleep in the living room if I want.
I “want” — that is the word.
My college friend of 30-odd years, Guillermo, has his knuckles dappled with white paint. His wants are tempered by duties at his house because of the construction work. He does get away from family life for a night of beers, and he sometimes brings his 22-year-old autistic son with us. He loves that sweet kid.
Tonight Ricky isn’t here and my friend is giving me some advice. Sometimes I dislike it, but sometimes it’s good. He has given me a book – “You Are Now Less Dumb.”
“Is there a reason you gave me this?” I laugh, but feel a bit offended.
“Don’t worry. It’s to help you with your article on politics and relatives.”
He makes me toughen my skin when I need it. The article he is referring to is a piece on strife in my family over politics. But that strife is not in my apartment.
Guillermo thinks of me even when he has a busy life. Our talk lasts for a few hours, and includes a pizza and three beers each.
We chat about college friends’ doings, professors’ books, and some engaging politics. Then we turn to wives and kids. Now, I am just listening. My marriage ended in 2008 and usually, at this kind of moment, I feel free as a bird. My family – my parents’ family – is spread across the state (my father passed some years ago from cancer). Guillermo’s siblings and parents are all Coloradans.
We do share something: he has the role of uncle and great uncle, and I am also an uncle, twice, from my brother’s family. I appreciate the role, but it’s only on holidays that I sometimes see my nephews. The older one is sharp. He plays video games with me and tricks me while we play with his radio-controlled robots. I admit I was taken off-guard when he became old enough to be devious. It made me realize my age and inexperience with kids.
Guillermo has a daughter who is sharp herself and going to college this year. Her mother used to say, “Maria said that she wants to be as smart as J.C.” Now Maria is smarter. Having the young pass you up is something you have to brush off when you engage with kids. Living with them is a constant exercise in forgetting yourself and helping them grow.
I tell Guillermo that I am feeling old. “You are old,” he laughs.
Just then Guillermo’s wife calls him to ask when he will be home.
“It is late,” he says after hanging up. “Read up and bring me your latest piece when you’re ready. Love you man. Praying for you.”
“Love you brother.”
What other ways would I be different? I think about the discussions we have. Would my politics at the beer pub be different? Would I be more liberal? Would I be more conservative? (Would I be more or less combatant?) Would the things I blog about be different? Would I read different books? Guillermo’s choice for me comes from a desire to sharpen me, but I do need to sharpen him.
On the weekends, I sometimes drive through the Gaslamp Quarter and see the college-aged patrons enjoying themselves. I remember eating 50 spicy spicy spicy chicken wings, which if you ate them without a drink, you’d get them for free. (My friends ate 100-150 each.) Less responsibilities, tougher stomachs. Planning a family dinner involves food that everyone needs and enjoys.
My opinions about family and kids don’t seem to matter anymore after talking to my friend. Life sharpens you in different ways, the friends you keep affect you, and the family you do have affects you. I have no one to care for me if I am sick, and my life is about what I want, not what my kids and wife need.
I missed my father growing up in a divorced home, but my grandfather’s male influence served as an immeasurably positive factor. Though I was a teenage rebel — as many kids – my granddad let me know the rules. My sister also benefited from my grandfather’s male presence, which included a warning to the neighbor boys. I know Ricky needs Guillermo, as does Maria.
I’m probably not going to be receiving a remote, golf clubs, or a barbecue, but a gift like that would be great because you’re part of a family.
If you’re single this Father’s Day June 20, rather than being at home in an empty house, I recommend you go on a bike ride or walk with friends, have cocktails, watch a game. Or better yet, help your friends celebrate their fathers.
2 thoughts on “Father’s Day”
Jonathan this is so intimate and heartfelt. How wonderful that you can share such a sensitive part of yourself, and I thank you for that. Holidays often bring to the surface the sadness of loss or what we’re missing in our lives. Most people never even bring it up, because it’s too painful to acknowledge. Fortunately, you you have your sister & mom close, and the special friend(s) that are also family, that loves you. I often feel that holiday loneliness as well. Thank you for sharing your feelings.
Thank you Dorene! I wondered if it was honest enough.